Embracing The Chaos – The Decks I Love

Grand Prix GP Columbus July 30-August 1, 2010
Tuesday, July 20th – It’s been quite a while since I’ve listed the decks I play, so I thought it might be time (and a few voices in the forums have asked). They’ve morphed a little over the last six months or so, both due to new cards coming out and me liking to play with different things occasionally. While Rise of the Eldrazi hasn’t warped the format as Ken Nagle thought it might, it has certainly provided some material (and I’m sure an Emrakul discussion will ensue).

It’s been quite a while since I’ve listed the decks I play, so I thought it might be time (and a few voices in the forums have asked). They’ve morphed a little over the last six months or so, both due to new cards coming out and me liking to play with different things occasionally. While Rise of the Eldrazi hasn’t warped the format as Ken Nagle thought it might, it has certainly provided some material (and I’m sure an Emrakul discussion will ensue).

Kresh, The Bloodbraided

Kresh is as close to a “signature” General I have (although I guess there’s still argument for Phelddagrif—which I’m considering turning into a Bant Beatdown deck. More on that later). I keep a configuration control document on the important decks, so here are my latest changes.

2010 June 17:

Out: Anathemancer, Brooding Saurian, Dragon Broodmother, Pawn of Ulamog, Sapling of Colfenor, Shriekmaw, Sprouting Thrinax, Wood Elves, Pattern of Rebirth, Defense of the Heart, Barren Moor, Verdant Catacombs, Armillary Sphere.
In: Avenger of Zendikar, Charnelhoard Wurm, Stampeding Wildebeests, Thicket Elemental, Viridian Shaman, Xathrid Demon, Altar of Dementia, Dreamstone Hedron, Bojuka Bog, Exotic Orchard, Momentous Fall.

Some of the changes were cards coming out of Karrthus (see below) that I still wanted to play, like Charnelhoard Wurm and Thicket Elemental. Brooding Saurian goes in and out, dependent on my mood. I’m actually not sure why I took out the Pawn, since I had just put it in. Dreamstone Hedron just seemed like something I wanted to play. I really want to live the dream one of these days with a giant Hamletback sacrificed to Xathrid Demon. Altar of Dementia has already proved its value in both saving my dudes from getting stolen and filling up my own graveyard, in addition to the obvious. The deck begged for Momentous Fall, although in some cases I might have to be careful to not deck myself.

Stampeding Wildebeests was an impulse since I saw a foil one in the collection. Current worthwhile things to bounce are Acidic Slime, Avenger, Caller of the Claw, Eternal Witness, Farhaven Elf, Viridian Shaman, Woodfall Primus. I’m wondering if that’s enough. Perhaps putting back in Primordial Sage or Garruk’s Packmaster? Pelakka Wurm was actually the first thing that came to mind (love that guy). Actually, as I’m typing this, I’m grabbing one and replacing Deathbringer Thoctar (since he’s also in the Zombie deck). There are tons of great choices of green creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities; if there’s something you think is just too good to pass up, let me know.

Creatures (33)
Acidic Slime
Artisan of Kozilek
Avenger of Zendikar
Big Game Hunter
Bloodshot Cyclops
Bone Shredder
Butcher of Malakir
Caller of the Claw
Charnelhoard Wurm
Creakwood Liege
Eternal Witness
Farhaven Elf
Grave-Shell Scarab
Greater Gargadon
Hamletback Goliath
Lord of Extinction
Madrush Cyclops
Nantuko Vigilante
Nezumi Graverobber
Pelakka Wurm
Solemn Simulacrum
Spearbreaker Behemoth
Stalking Vengeance
Stampeding Wildebeests
Tajuru Preserver
Thicket Elemental
Viridian Shaman
Wilderness Elemental
Withered Wretch
Woodfall Primus
Xathrid Demon
Yavimaya Elder

Artifacts (8)
Altar of Dementia
Dreamstone Hedron
Eldrazi Monument
Scrabbling Claws
Sol Ring
Tormod’s Crypt

Sorceries (6)
Decree of Pain
Demonic Tutor
Living Death
Natural Order

Instants (6)
Grab the Reins
Makeshift Mannequin
Momentous Fall
Red Elemental Blast
Summoning Trap

Enchantments (9)
Fires of Yavimaya
Goblin Bombardment
Grave Pact
Greater Good
Lurking Predators
Oversold Cemetery
Pernicious Deed
Survival of the Fittest

Lands (37)
Akoum Refuge
Bojuka Bog
Exotic Orchard
9 Forest
Forgotten Cave
4 Mountain
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Overgrown Tomb
Rakdos Carnarium
Reliquary Tower
Savage Lands
Skargg, the Rage Pits
Spinerock Knoll
Stomping Ground
8 Swamp
Temple of the False God
Twilight Mire
Urborg Volcano

I’ve always thought that Pandemonium would be really, really interesting for this deck, but really, really scary too. I guess there could be a couple of auto-kills (for anyone) with cards like Lord of Extinction. I guess living on that edge would be truly Embracing the Chaos. Ah, hell with it. I’m going for it. List updated. Vicious Shadows out, Pandemonium in.

As far as M11 cards go, Reverberate is of course interesting to me. Wild Evocation is chaotic enough, but I think that’s a different deck. Maybe eventually I’ll make the True Chaos deck. Fauna Shaman is no Survival of the Fittest, for sure. It will not live up to the hype. Mitotic Slime seems like it’d pump up Kresh pretty good, and is especially saucy with sacrifice outlets, and looks like the only serious choice to supplant any cards in the deck.

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund

Karrthus was formerly Darigaaz, and as we talked about a few weeks ago, I just like him better. The deck started as a Beasts/Landfall deck. Eventually much of the Landfall stuff went out, but a few vestiges remained (like Ob-Nixilis). Mostly, I found value in the stuff that gets extra land into play in order to play more and bigger things.

2010 17 June:

IN: Avatar of Woe, Chameleon Colossus, Hystrodon, It That Betrays, Kozilek, Taurean Mauler, Wood Elves, Plague Wind, World at War, Savage Beating, Sudden Spoiling, Sarkhan the Mad, Bojuka Bog, Golgari Rot Farm
OUT: Baloth Woodcrasher, Bloodbraid Elf, Charnelhoard Wurm, Farhaven Elf, Heart Warden, Primordial Sage, Terra Stomper, Thicket Elemental, Wilderness Elemental, Woodfall Primus, Obliterate, Shunt, Darksteel Citadel, Terminal Moraine, Baloth Cage Trap, Leyline of the Void

Avatar of Woe came in because it’s really, really good and I traded for a Pro Tour foil one. Chameleon Colossus, Hystrodon, and Taurean Mauler are all Beasts, giving me 13. Wood Elves is simply better than Farhaven Elf. I’ve already discussed the insane value of Sudden Spoiling. Plague Wind came in for Obliterate. In the long run, I’d rather lose without Obliterate than win with it—although I might occasionally splash it back in just to keep some folks honest. Sarkhan the Mad just seemed awesome, whether it was stealing dragons or making them with my own smaller dudes. Bojuka Bog and Rot Farm came in simply because I finally acquired foil versions. Finally, the World At War/Savage Beating package is representative of Team Lives in the Red Zone. There must be multiple attacks!

Creatures (35)
Acidic Slime
Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Avatar of Woe
Big Game Hunter
Butcher of Malakir
Chameleon Colossus
Copperhoof Vorrac
Dragon Broodmother
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Eternal Witness
Greater Gargadon
Indrik Stomphowler
It That Betrays
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Krosan Tusker
Lotus Cobra
Mold Shambler
Molder Slug
Ob-Nixilis, the Fallen
Oracle of Mul Daya
Ouphe Vandals
Pawn of Ulamog
Puppeteer Clique
Rampaging Baloths
Ravenous Baloth
Solemn Simulacrum
Spearbreaker Behemoth
Spellbreaker Behemoth
Taurean Mauler
Vampire Hexmage
Withered Wretch
Wood Elves

Artifacts (3)
Crucible of Worlds
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sol Ring

Decree of Pain
Demonic Tutor
Kodama’s Reach
Patriarch’s Bidding
Plague Wind
World at War

Instants (7)
Artifact Mutation
Hunting Pack
Red Elemental Blast
Savage Beating
Sudden Spoiling

Planeswalkers (2)
Garruk Wildspeaker
Sarkhan the Mad

Enchantments (7)
Fires of Yavimaya
Goblin Bombardment
Greater Good
Lurking Predators
Pernicious Deed
Survival of the Fittest

Lands (38)
Bloodstained Mire
Bojuka Bog
City of Brass
Contested Cliffs
Darigaaz’s Caldera
6 Forest
Golgari Rot Farm
Graven Cairns
Gruul Turf
Karplusan Forest
Kazandu Refuge
Llanowar Wastes
Miren, the Moaning Well
Mosswort Bridge
2 Mountain
Overgrown Tomb
Reliquary Tower
Savage Lands
Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Spinerock Knoll
Stomping Ground
3 Swamp
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse
Tower of the Magistrate
Verdant Catacombs
Wooded Foothills

As far as the future of the deck goes, the two M11 cards that I see coming in are Garruk’s Packmaster and Obstinate Baloth. Fling gets a nod (although Grab the Reins doubles as a Fling), and if I happen on a foily one, I’ll probably make room for it. I’m also considering laser-focusing the Beast theme. Likely additions are Fangren Pathcutter, Gnarlid Pack, Krosan Groundshaker, Krosan Warchief, Paleoloth, Quagnoth, Spinal Villain (yep, it’s a Beast!), Thrashing Wumpus, and Woodripper. There are also some interesting additional Changeling options: Cairn Wanderer and Changeling Titan being the best. Alternately, I could go with some janky Conspiracy strategy, being able to make all my guys Beasts—or Dragons for Sarkhan.

Lord of Tresserhorn (and his Legion of Zombies)

I’ve made few changes to this deck since I made it. I took out Vicious Shadows, replacing it with Breath of Fury, hoping to live some crazy dream of taking 11 attack steps in a row or something. I’ve already put the M11 Titan on the list, replacing Igenous Pouncer, who I realized wasn’t even a Zombie! I also took out Mindlock Orb, because I didn’t want to be that guy. Shadow of Doubt stays in for the SURPRISE! Factor.

It’s an extremely fun deck to play, although it’s not the tightest, most consistent thing. For the most part, it thrives on the card draw of Graveborn Muse to get rolling. Grave Defiler can also be a nice hand-filler. I’m considering putting in Repay in Kind for two reasons: first, people play Magister Sphinx and Sorin. Second, my life total can get pretty low, and it might be an out-of-nowhere win. Of course, the greatest insanity is getting a graveyard full of dudes and then casting Tombstone Stairwell. I was also considering Dingus Staff to combo with that, but I think I’d do worse than everyone else.

Creatures (34)
Abyssal Gatekeeper
Ashen Ghoul
Bone Dancer
Butcher of Malakir
Cemetery Reaper
Coffin Queen
Corpse Harvester
Death Baron
Deathbringer Thoctar
Fleshbag Marauder
Gempalm Polluter
Grave Defiler
Grave Titan
Graveborn Muse
Gravespawn Sovereign
Havoc Demon
Jhessian Zombies
Lich Lord of Unx
Lord of the Undead
Noxious Ghoul
Phyrexian Delver
Solemn Simulacrum
Soulless One
Twisted Abomination
Undead Gladiator
Undead Warchief
Vengeful Dead
Visara the Dreadful
Withered Wretch
Yixlid Jailer

Artifacts (5)
Basilisk Collar
Dreamstone Hedron
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Sword of Fire and Ice

Enchantments (6)
Breath of Fury
Goblin Bombardment
Grave Pact
Oversold Cemetery
Rhystic Study
Tombstone Stairwell

Instants (7)
Cruel Revival
Grab the Reins
Read the Runes
Shadow of Doubt
Red Elemental Blast
Stroke of Genius
Vampiric Tutor

Sorceries (7)
Consuming Vapors
Demonic Tutor
Living Death
Patriarch’s Bidding
Treasure Hunt

Planeswalkers (2)
Jace Beleren
Sorin Markov

Land (38)
Akroum Refuge
Barren Moor
Bloodstained Mire
Bojuka Bog
Creeping Tar Pit
Crumbling Necropolis
Dimir Aqueduct
Drowned Catacomb
Dragonskull Summit
Exotic Orchard
Forgotten Cave
Maze of Ith
Jwar Isle Refuge
Polluted Delta
Reliquary Tower
Shivan Reef
Reflecting Pool
Steam Vents
10 Swamp
Tainted Isle
Tainted Peak
Underground Sea
Unholy Grotto
Vivid Crag
Volcanic Island
Volrath’s Stronghold

As far as other M11 cards go, Demon of Death’s Gate looks like it might be interesting, since I’d have it out pretty early. Phylactery Lich is tauntingly attractive, but there aren’t enough artifacts in the deck for it to really be worthwhile. Although it’s not new to M11, Rise from the Grave is certainly full of flavor.


2010 Jul 7: New List

It’s not that the list is new, it’s that I didn’t have a soft copy of the list. My friends Justin and Todd, who are actually visiting this week starting tomorrow, and are part of the original Virginia EDH group, will recognize most of this deck as what I’ve had since forever. It doesn’t have much of a cohesive strategy, it’s just a collection of good cards (what Adrian Sullivan calls… something—but I know he has a name for it). What I like to do most with it is get out the hippo early and just attack. Later on, there’s thinking to be done, Instants to be played, spells to be countered, and whatnot. The list has more counterspells than in all my other decks combined, I think (six, counting Mystic Snake).

There are some combos in the deck, including one I didn’t think about. In a recent casual game, I was at 33 life with Wall of Reverence in play when I resolved Serra Avatar. Some turns later, I was at 33,927, certainly the most life I’ve had in non-infinite combo fashion.

Creatures (31)
Acidic Slime
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Angel of Salvation
Aura Thief
Coiling Oracle
Crovax, Ascendant Hero
Deep-Sea Kraken
Eternal Witness
Exalted Angel
Galepowder Mage
Giltspire Avenger
Indrik Stomphowler
Keiga, the Tide Star
Magus of the Moat
Molder Slug
Mystic Snake
Pristine Angel
Qasali Pridemage
Serra Avatar
Skyward Eye Prophets
Solemn Simulacrum
Spearbreaker Behemoth
Trygon Predator
Venser, Shaper Savant
Wall of Reverence
Woodfall Primus
World Queller
Yavimaya Elder

Artifacts (4)
Fellwar Stone
Scrabbling Claws
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sol Ring

Enchantments (5)
Aura of Silence
Finest Hour
Luminarch Ascension
Mirari’s Wake
Shield of the Oversoul

Sorceries (5)
Ancestral Vision
Austere Command
Beacon of Tomorrows
Final Judgment
Hallowed Burial

Instants (15)
Beacon of Immortality
Celestial Purge
Chord of Calling
Cryptic Command
Dawn Charm
Gather Specimens
Krosan Grip
Mana Drain
Overwhelming Intellect

Lands (39)
Azorius Chancery
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Breeding Pool
City of Brass
Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Flagstones of Trokair
2 Forest
Greypelt Refuge
Hallowed Fountain
6 Island
Llanowar Reborn
Lonely Sandbar
Maze of Ith
Misty Rainforest
5 Plains
Reliquary Tower
Rupture Spire
Seaside Citadel
Secluded Steppe
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber
Temple Garden
Temple of the False God
Tower of the Magistrate
Tropical Island
Windswept Heath

You’ll notice that there are barely enough Plains to go with Emeria, which I didn’t realize when I put it in—it was just a case of ‘ooh, foily!’ which has been sufficient motivation in the past to stick in cards. Emeria will come out of there when I eventually build the Mono-White Isamaru deck. Speaking of Mono-White, no, Serra Ascendant isn’t getting preemptively banned.

There are a pile of M11 cards that can go in. Topping the list are Angelic Arbiter, Leyline of Sanctity, Sun Titan (although I’m not quite sure what I’d keep getting back with him), Stormtide Leviathan, Time Reversal, Gaea’s Revenge, and Primeval Titan (but what deck doesn’t want that guy?).

That said, I’d like to focus the deck a little more. My first thought was to make it an Angel deck, but knowing that I’m a fan of the beatdown, perhaps I could do a little aggro Bant something or other. It’d just be a shame to stop playing some of the great cards listed above. I also want to make sure that not everything is a creature-type theme deck. Isperia, which I’ve recently listed, is kind of an Angel deck, and I might be able to shuffle around some of the cards and narrow the theme there, so I wouldn’t want to duplicate effort (and I’d want to get the consent of the folks that built the deck). Clearly, I don’t want to build a ‘group hug’ deck, since it’s been done to death already—so I’ll be in search of new Phelddagrif ideas. If you have any, feel free to ship them.

The last list I have is Thraximundar. The whole point is getting the General out and swinging with him. It’s my lowest creature-count deck, which makes me a little uncomfortable since I really do love living in the Red Zone.

Creatures (23)
Big Game Hunter
Blood Tyrant
Dimir Cutpurse
Draining Whelk
Garza Zol, Plague Queen
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
Kagemaro, First to Suffer
Kulrath Knight
Lord of Shatterskull Pass
Malakir Bloodwitch
Mindless Automaton
Nantuko Husk
Nightscape Battlemage
Nightscape Familiar
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
Reiver Demon
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Solemn Simulacrum
Vampire Nighthawk
Vexing Sphinx
Withered Wretch

Artifacts (13)
Darksteel Ingot
Expedition Map
Explorer’s Scope
Fellwar Stone
Lotus Bloom
Mind Stone
Scrabbling Claws
Shield of Kaldra
Sol Ring
Sword of Fire and Ice
Wayfarer’s Bauble
Whispersilk Cloak

Enchantments (1)
Phrexian Arena

Sorceries (14)
Beacon of Unrest
Consume Spirit
Cruel Edict
Decree of Pain
Demonic Tutor
Diabolic Tutor
Living Death
Time Warp
Twisted Justice

Instants (9)
Agonizing Demise
Cerebral Vortex
Chain of Plasma
Overwhelming Intellect
Read the Runes
Reins of Power
Whispers of the Muse

Lands (39)
Blood Crypt
Crosis’s Catacombs
Crumbling Necropolis
6 Island
Izzet Boilerworks
Jwar Isle Refuge
5 Mountain
Reliquary Tower
Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
Spinerock Knoll
Steam Vents
14 Swamp
Tainted Isle
Tainted Peak
Temple of the False God
Terminal Moraine
Watery Grave

I’m not terribly happy with the deck. It’s been a while since I played it, and it did okay, but it’s kind of left me cold, like it doesn’t have the right kind of punch. Since it’s in the Grixis colors, I was considering somehow combining it with an idea I’ve called “Grixis Meandeck.” I haven’t built it, and I’m not sure I actually will, since it seems a little nastier than I like to be.

Creatures (17)
Bala Ged Thief
Barbed Shocker
Chainer, Dementia Master
Dimir Cutpurse
Kederekt Leviathan
Kederket Parasite
Myojin of Night’s Reach
Riptide Pilferer
River Kelpie
Rootwater Thief
Shimian Specter
Stigma Lasher
Thada Adel, Acquisitor
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Zo-Zu, the Punisher

Sorceries (16)
Bitter Ordeal
Choice of Damnations
Consuming Vortex
Cranial Extraction
Cruel Ultimatum
Dampen Thought
Head Games
Nightmare Incursion
Sadistic Sacrament
Syphon Mind
Tunnel Vision
Wheel and Deal

Instants (10)
Cerebral Vortex
False Cure
Hideous Laughter
Reach Through Mists
Gaze of Adamaro
Wild Ricochet

Enchantments (9)
AEther Flash
Decree of Silence
Everlasting Torment
Forced Fruition
Leyline of the Void
Lethal Vapors
Memory Erosion
Phyrexian Tyranny
Polluted Bonds
Spiteful Visions

Artifacts (4)
Dingus Staff
Jester’s Cap
Jester’s Mask
Oblivion Stone

Planeswalkers (2)
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Sorin Markov

4 artifact mana sources

Most of those cards are far outside my comfort zone, it seems mostly like a griefer idea, and I don’t want to be that guy. As I said a few weeks ago, I think one of the ways to play is to give everyone a chance—but there’s a difference between giving them the chance and giving them free reign, which is why there seems to be some merit to folding some of the cards/strategies into the Thraximundar deck. Finding the right middle ground would be a challenge.

There are single cards in there that I really like, Cerebral Vortex being one of them. It gives you the opportunity to draw a few cards yourself, but it also punishes someone for being greedy. I would not be upset at someone who targeted me with it after drawing 30 cards from a Greater Good or Momentous Fall. Seems quite fair, really. Spiteful Visions is another card that just seems like it’s not too mean until someone is getting out of hand. Clearly, we would all pay 1 life/take 1 damage to draw a card, and that’s what Spiteful Visions gives you. Get gluttonous, and it’s bad for you.

I’m really on the fence about cards like Sadistic Sacrament and Nightmare Incursion. There’s a fine line between ‘keeping someone from getting out of hand’ and ‘preventing them from doing anything at all,’ and that line is really blurry. I guess that one is really a metagame call. If your League or playgroup is really Spikey, then I’d say all bets (not to mention the kid gloves) are off. If the environment is a little friendlier, then I might hesitate—although Sacrament unkicked is mostly just a combo-killer. Someone is bound to have Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in play (so many people locally play it that I’ve taken it out of my decks because I don’t need it), so Nightmare Incursion is most likely always a crippler.

I also have a Merieke list, but it only includes 95 cards, and the deck that’s sprawled out on the table only has about 85 cards, so I need to work on that. It’s mostly centered on stealing stuff, but I haven’t been inspired to fool around with it. I have Rith deck that’s mostly a Soldier token generator, but I haven’t played it in a while and don’t have a written list.

I’ve also recently listed the Cromat deck, but it’s time to update that with an M11 card. Primeval Titan seems like the obvious choice (the land-fetching ability is just dumb, especially helpful in a five-color deck). Any of the dual lands are fine, if uninspiring, choices. Kind of out of left field, the Sword of Vengeance might be something to think about as well.

I’ll be back next week with reports from the Armada Games EDH League, so stay tuned. In the meanwhile, keep Embracing the Chaos!